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Achieving Lifestyle Changes With PCOS Through Habit-Building

Posted on August 8, 2023

Living with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can make it difficult to start and stick with habits like getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, or staying physically active. Even if you know making a change will benefit your mental health, forming good habits can be a struggle.

Members of myPCOSteam often share their goals and cheer each other on. One member who wanted to improve their eating habits wrote, “Usually I get frustrated really easily and lose motivation soon because nothing seems to work for me. I hope this time it does! Do you guys have any tips about what worked for you?”

At times, you can lose your motivation when you think you’re not making progress toward your goal. The next time you have a thought like this, pause and think about whether it’s really true.

Progress Comes in Many Forms

Consider your efforts so far. Have you really made no progress, or have you ignored all the work you’ve put in and the benefits you’ve already gotten from trying to reach your goal?

Are you completing your habit more than you used to? That’s a sign of progress. You can also notice whether you’ve reached any new milestones.

Here are some signs of progress:

  • Finding it easier to keep up your habit
  • Being active longer before you feel tired
  • Lifting heavier weights
  • Sleeping longer or more deeply
  • Being in a better mood
  • Feeling more confident
  • Feeling happier

    Increase Your Chances of Success

    It can be hard to keep something up when the end goal seems far away. Here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of success in meeting your ultimate goal.

    Choose Goals That Give You Something Concrete To Work Toward

    It helps if your goal is something you can measure. Rather than an open-ended goal like, “Exercise more,” you might choose something concrete like, “Go for a walk after work five days this week.”

    Break Down Your Goal Into Smaller Steps

    If you’re not sure how to start, make your first step small and achievable. Instead of saying, “I’ll go for a 20-minute run,” say, “I’ll put on my socks and shoes.” And then maybe your next goal is,”I’ll step outside and walk around the block.”

    Make a plan to achieve your goal through small, measurable milestones, and take them on one at a time.

    It Takes Time To Create New Habits

    Willpower is overrated. When it comes to successful behavior change, there are tools you can use to create habits more easily. There is no magic number of days it takes a habit to form, but some research says the average is 66 days of consistent behavior. It all depends on the complexity of the new habit.

    Here are some things to consider as you work toward your goal.

    Habits Become Easier To Form the Longer You Do Them

    You’re more likely to succeed at keeping a habit you’ve done for one month than you are before you begin. Every time you complete your new habit, it should be easier to do it again.

    Not All Habits Are Created Equal

    Drinking a glass of water in the morning is easier than waking up early and going for a swim. Different tasks require different amounts of effort. It’s natural that one would be easier to turn into a habit.

    If it takes you more than 66 days to form a new habit, it doesn’t mean you've failed. Instead, try making your goals smaller. See if you can break up your large goal into smaller milestones that will get you there.

    Mental Rehearsal

    Visualize yourself performing the habit so that you're prepared when you do it. Before you attempt an action, try going through it step by step in your mind.

    Habit-Stacking

    It can help to pair your new habit with something you already do regularly. Instead of saying, “I’ll make time at night to journal,” try, “I’ll journal right after I set my morning alarm.” By stacking the two habits at the same time in your schedule, you’re more likely to remember your new commitment.

    Support and Accountability

    Finding others who are going through your journey can be a game­ changer. Don’t underestimate the power of positive peer support. Members of myPCOSteam are there to encourage each other. As one member wrote, “It’s hard to change habits, so don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t happen overnight. Baby steps! Good luck.”

    Talk With Others Who Understand

    On myPCOSteam, the social network for people with polycystic ovary syndrome and their loved ones, more than 70,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their experiences with others who understand life with PCOS.

    Have you found ways to build healthy habits? What advice do you have for others trying to make changes? Share your experience in the comments below or join the conversation on myPCOSteam.

    Posted on August 8, 2023
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